How we Source Candidates at Applied

Published by:
Cameo Choquer
August 19, 2021
min read

As a hiring company, we have a really easy and stress-free time hiring people. Anytime we open a job, we get tons of candidates from all walks of life applying, hiring managers love writing review guides and the process is super smooth. Just kidding!

Hiring is hard. It's why we're continually trying to make it easier and more inclusive. It's also why our team is so empathetic with our customers. We are our own customers - something our Head of Product liked to remind me was called dogfooding (testing and using your own product).

We (obviously) use our own product to hire which limits the bias that normally gets introduced during a standard hiring process. However, that doesn't always mean we eliminate bias throughout the entirety of the hiring process.

One thing I've found and what we've heard from recruiters is how difficult it can be when the industry and ecosystem is obsessed with halos and horns.

The Halo and Horn effect are when information about another person (their name, where they went to school or previously worked/volunteered) sets the tone for your opinion about them. I find this happens a lot when I meet someone with a clothing style I like and I immediately want to be their best friend.

Hiring is hard and this year we've had to put more effort into finding people for our engineering and product teams, which has meant taking time to do our own sourcing. That's right, I've been scouring the internet for people to join the team - and it's been really difficult to do without introducing a ton of bias in the process.

Our hiring and networking tools are set up to index around names and faces. On every website, the main information on a modal is a name and face. Something completely irrelevant to the role you're hiring for and yet it's front and centre with very little information about them.

There is a chance it has their title or where they work, but that also gives no indication of whether or not they could do the job.

How bias affects CV reviews

So how do you look through job boards and apps with candidate profiles without looking at all this bias inducing information?

I'd like to think that adaptability is one of our strong suits at Applied. We've started to use a products like cord to diversify where we look for candidates. It's been great but like Linkedin and other sites, I've gotten so distracted by peoples faces and names.

Even I, knowing all these things, fall foul of bias and that's ok. It's not something that I can fix in my head, but at least I can try to work around it with some scrappy tools. So, we used stylus extension for Chrome and Firefox to blank that information out.

Much like the Applied sift, I’ve removed information to force myself to look at people’s primary and secondary skills, what they’re interested in, leaving out things that don’t matter.

It’s really made me realize how much we focus on these two things more than we might care to acknowledge. It also makes it quite clear how difficult it can be to differentiate between candidates. All these engineers have JavaScript skills - but how do we assess them against what we need and expect for the role?

Don’t get me wrong, your name and face are important and make you who you are, but they shouldn’t be a factor in why you get the job or not. I might look at the candidate below and see that we have the same name. How fun, right? Or maybe I'd find that annoying because people would keep tagging me on Slack by accident. Maybe all of a sudden I don't like the thought of hiring this person. Oh, but look!

He's wearing a plaid shirt, maybe he likes grunge music and drinking beer - I like those things too! Maybe we'll be best friends... None of these thoughts are related to work. They're all related to my first impressions, jumping to conclusions and assumptions purely based on hypotheticals that are subjective to me.

Taking away these two things (as shown below) really makes you reflect on how fast and biased we are when scanning profiles. Funnily enough, not long after we made the stylus extension, cord made this feature easily available.

We've been doing a lot of testing with job boards, recruiters, and community events in order to reach out to people. It's a holistic approach for us. The end goal is to find people who share similar values and principles, have the knowledge and skills to do the job and want to work with a team that's growing all while trying to contribute to solving a really big problem.

A Different Approach to Looking for Candidates

For a long time, recruiting tools have enabled a "warm intro" approach rather than a "warm leads" approach. It's the difference between a handshake behind closed doors and an open conversation before you walk in the door. Meaning, they should enable you to sell the role/company and make those connections rather than make a quick hire.

While there may be some signifiers in someone's profile to indicate that they may be interested in your company, they might not be good indicators of whether or not they would be good at the job. When I started looking for full stack engineers I didn't look for x years experience, red brick universities, or even a computer science degree.

What I looked for were things like, did they have the specific skill we needed (javascript), was there anything that might indicate that they would look for this job on their own (the title "full stack engineer") or did they have an interest in what we do (content search for social impact, startups, behavioural science). ie. if I email this person, would they be open to having a conversation about Applied.

Would I be able to have a conversation with them and sell them the idea of working here?  Even if they weren't interested in the job, would they still be interested in what Applied does?

It's not easy, and I've probably emailed candidates who aren't interested but I hope they now know that it wasn't because of their name or face.

Want to try anonymizing profiles too?

We used Stylus with the extension called cord-anon with the below:

.profile_picture, .candidate_name, .profile_picture_dark{ display:none !important; }

You can download stylus here and find more extensions and styles [here](

Applied is the essential platform for debiased hiring. Purpose-built to make hiring empirical and ethical, our platform uses anonymized applications and skill-based assessments to identify talent that would otherwise have been overlooked.

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